What can tourists do to avoid over tourism?
Responsible tourism refers to tourism which creates better places for people to live and to visit – with the emphasis on ‘to live’. Therefore, by definition, it is the opposite of overtourism, which diminishes the quality of life for local residents and creates a negative experience for visitors. Overtourism is sometimes simply a case of numbers: there are too many people in a particular place at a particular time. But in some cases, taking a more responsible approach to tourism can mitigate the negative effects.
In these cases, the solution can be to travel as a responsible tourist; to travel in ways which maximise positive impacts and minimise the negative ones. Two things to think about are the place, and think about the time. Spain, Italy, Iceland and Croatia have all been in the news as victims of overtourism, but in each case, this is extremely localised. Barcelona is rammed, and many of its residents are understandably fed up, but Spain is a surprisingly large country, and many of its cities are not at all crowded with tourists. Better still, head out into the villages and mountains for a real glimpse of the country away from the mainstream hordes. Not only will you have a much more realistic insight into daily life in Spain; but in many small pueblos you’ll be eagerly welcomed as one of the few tourists to arrive. There are many places around the globe that need, and want, more tourists.
Of course, if you really do want to meander through the aisles of La Boqueria, then you have no choice but to visit the Catalan capital. But what you can do is to visit it outside of peak season. This is more pleasant for you, less stressful for residents, puts less pressure on things like public transport, and may even save you quite a bit of money, too.
And whenever you travel, try and ensure as much of your cash stays as local as possible. Pay national park entrance fees to ensure your visit supports conservation; stay in locally owned guesthouses; eat at local restaurants and take tours with local guides. Tourism can still be very much a force for good, and ensuring that local residents, habitats and wildlife benefit from your presence is an important part of that.
Travelling responsibly, in smaller numbers, not only helps avoid overtourism. It will give you a greater connection with local people and ways of life: a far more authentic holiday experience.